By John T. Bennett - 11/01/11 05:47 PM EDT
The Pentagon’s sweeping strategy review will examine a Navy plan to move an aircraft carrier from Virginia to Florida, according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
At issue is the sea service’s intention to relocate an aircraft from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla., a move that would bring jobs and an economic jolt to the latter but deliver a big blow to the former. Lawmakers from Virginia and Florida have been battling over the issue for years.
The Pentagon’s rationale for the shift was explained in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, a document that lays out the nation’s defense strategy, as intended “to mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, accident or natural disaster.”
Greenert told the Virginia delegation they should feel “assured I will include your concerns in the Navy’s strategic calculus.”
But Greenert did not tip his hand on which way the sea service was leaning on the matter.
In a Tuesday statement, Forbes said that in an “age of budget austerity, the Navy would be wise to reverse its decision to build an expensive and redundant CVN home port in Mayport.”
Forbes said he is “pleased to hear … that the Navy is indeed reassessing its decision."
Greenert’s letter came in response to one sent to him by Forbes and other Virginia lawmakers, including Democratic Sens. James Webb and Mark Warner, that argued the cost of building suitable facilities to house such a massive ship would be too hefty given that annual Defense Department budgets appear likely to shrink for some time.
“It is inevitable that the expense of building and maintaining redundant facilities for [carrier] home porting in Mayport will detract from the Navy’s ability to reach [its] goal of a 313-ship fleet,” Forbes and the other members wrote in that Sept. 23 letter.
Proponents of keeping the carrier in Norfolk argue the cost of constructing the envisioned Mayport facility would run between $500 million and $1 billion.
The Virginia lawmakers’ letter cites a 2009 Congressional Research Service study that concluded the sea service expects basing a carrier in Mayport would “result in an additional recurring … cost of $25.5 million in constant calendar year 2010 dollars.”